On Wednesday, WLP staff attorney Tara Pfeifer talked with WITF Smart Talk’s Scott LaMar about the rights of pregnant workers.
The rights of pregnant workers is at a tipping point, especially since the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in the landmark pregnancy discrimination case Peggy Young v. UPS back in March.
“What the decision means is an [affirmation] of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an act passed way back in 1978, that was designed specifically to eradicate discrimination against pregnant workers,” Pfeifer told LaMar. “As that particular law has played out in court decisions over the last few decades, it’s not being consistently applied. Employers such as UPS in the Young case, had policies they identified as “pregnancy-blind,” but in reality, what it was doing was shutting out pregnant women exclusively for certain accommodations that other workers, as you identify, even ones that were convicted of DUI, were given routinely.”
The Young decision, Pfeifer explains, lands in the middle ground. It is a victory for pregnant workers, but also underscores the need for additional protections, and the need to clarify the requirements around providing temporary, reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.
One helpful fix: Passing a state-level law requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.
Currently, the Pennsylvania Legislature is considering the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PPWFA). Sponsored by Sen. Matt Smith (D-Washington/Allegheny), the PPWFA would require covered employers to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless it poses an undue hardship on the employer. It is part of a legislative package of bills to improve women’s health called the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. There is also a forthcoming companion bill in the House, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) and Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia).
Women are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of modern families. No woman should have to worry that she could be forced off the job if she gets pregnant, and lose her paycheck and health care at the very moment her family needs her most.
So far, fourteen states and several cities have passed laws requiring some employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers—including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. That leaves an overwhelming number of Pennsylvania women with less protections, simply because of their zip code.